Deakin University

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Because it takes a village to fund the answers: Crowdfunding University Research

posted on 2023-10-26, 03:20 authored by Deb Verhoeven, Stuart Palmer
Whichever way you look at it, online crowdfunding is ramifying. From its foundations supporting creative industry initiatives, crowdfunding has branched into almost every aspect of public and private enterprise. Niche crowdfunding platforms and models are burgeoning across the globe faster than you can trill “kerching”. Early adopters have been quick to discover that in addition to money, they also get free market information and an opportunity to develop a relationship with their market base.

Despite these evident benefits, universities have been cautious entrants in the crowdfunding space and more generally in the emerging ‘collaborative economy’ (Owyang, 2013). There are many cultural and institutional legacies that might explain this reluctance. For example, to date universities have achieved social (and economic) distinction through refining a set of exclusionary practices including, but not limited to, versions of gatekeeping, ranking and credentialing. These practices are reproduced in the expected behaviors of individual academics who garner social currency and status as experts, legislators and interpreters (Osborne, 20014: 435). Digitalization and the emergent knowledge and collaboration economies, have the potential to disrupt the academy’s traditional appeals to distinction and to re-engage universities and academics with their public stakeholders. This chapter will examine some of the challenges and benefits arising from public micro-funding of university-based research initiatives during a period of industrial transition in the university sector.

Broadly then this chapter asks; what does scholarship mean in a digital ecosystem where sociality (rather than traditional systems for assessing academic merit) affords research opportunity and success? How might university research be rethought in a networked world where personal and professional identities are blurred? What happens when scholars adopt the same pathways as non-scholars for knowledge discovery, development and dissemination through use of emerging practices such as crowdfunding. These issues will be discussed through detailed exploration of a successful pilot project to crowdfund university research; Research My World. This project, a collaboration between Deakin University and the crowdfunding platform, set out to secure new sources of funding for the ‘long-tail’ of academic research. More generally, it aimed to improve the digital capacity of the participating researchers and create new opportunities for public engagement for the researchers themselves as well as the university. We will examine how crowdfunding and social media platforms alter academic effort (the dis-intermediation or re-intermediation of research funding, reduction of the compliance burden, opportunities for market validation and so on), as well as the particular workflows of scholarly researchers themselves (improvements in “digital presence-building”, provision of cheap alternative funding, opportunities to crowdsource non-academic knowledge).

In addressing these questions, this chapter will explore the influence that crowdfunding campaigns have for transforming contemporary academic practices across a range of disciplinary instances, providing the basis for a new form of engagement-led research. To support our analysis we will provide an overview of the initiative through quantitative analysis of a dataset generated by the first iteration of Research My World projects.




Chapter number



133 - 156



Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Peter Lang




L Bennett, B Chin, B Jones

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